Using Videos To Help Older Drivers Learn New Technologies

It’s quite probable that vehicles have changed enormously since the majority of motorists took their driving tests.  While many of these changes are designed to make driving safer, the adaptation to the new tools can reduce safety, especially among older drivers who may take longer to adjust.

New research from Texas A&M University suggests that using interactive videos can be a more effective teaching aid than manuals or even live demonstrations, thus shortening the time taken to learn new driver-assistance technologies (ADAS).

“Older adults have a higher rate of vehicle crashes because of degradations in physical, mental and motor capabilities,” the researchers say. “With ADAS, some of the mental workload related to driving can be taken off, and we’ve shown that instructional videos are the best way to introduce ADAS to seniors. We hope that this insight will lead to better video-based training materials for this age group so that senior safety while driving is enhanced.”

Driver assistance

The researchers explain that around 18% of car accidents involve people over 65, which given they drive fewer miles places them at disproportionate risk.  The researchers believe many of these incidents are due to the difficulty older people have in performing multiple activities while they drive.

For instance, drivers may commonly have to start the adaptive cruise control while maintaining focus on the road head or monitoring the current speed limit.  Such assistive features are designed to make driving easier, but may in this instance make it less safe.

Typically, instructions are given via one of four methods: driving simulators, live demonstrations, manuals, and videos.  For this research, the authors focused on demonstration-based training and videos, as they believed that drivers tend not to read instruction manuals, and rarely have access to driving simulators.

The volunteers were given training for either lane-keeping assist systems or adaptive cruise control, before then being tested in a simulator.  Their gaze was being monitored as they switched between ADAS and manual control, and found that the video-based training appeared to be most effective, although there were subtle gender differences.

“We were surprised to find that while male drivers were faster at activating ADAS, they were also the most distracted by it,” the researchers explain. “So, from a neurological standpoint, older female drivers were more efficient at using ADAS technologies and reducing their mental workload after video-based training.”

While the researchers accept that their sample size was relatively small, and therefore more work needs to be done involving a larger pool of volunteers, they do nonetheless believe their findings shed some light on the best way to help older drivers adapt to the changing technology at their finger tips.

“Videos, we think, are effective because they can be paused, rewound and reviewed multiple times, giving seniors a sense of control over what they are learning and at what pace,” they conclude. “Our work does not diminish the importance of manuals and other forms of instructional materials, instead our results challenge the way we normally think about communicating ADAS technology-related information to seniors.”

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